IQ Tested at Espy
On his previous two visits Canadian Fred Eaglesmith has performed in solo acoustic mode. His latest visit to Australia saw him bring his band the Flying Squirrels along for the ride, this provided his fans with an opportunity to see and hear another side of Eaglesmith.
No stranger to leading a merry band of men and women on cross country jaunts in North America, dates in Australia included the Byron Bay Music Festival and the Esplanade Hotel in St.Kilda.
Ironically, the famed Gershwin Room that is currently being used on a regular basis as the venue for RockWiz, the rock trivia contest on SBS TV, an Eaglesmith show provides a cerebral challenge of its own.
Other tales were both poignant and a far fetched sometimes both at once, particularly the ridiculous drive-by Harpooners. This is a tale in which Eaglesmith is suggesting that we should be sceptical about Governments and our political leaders. Fred's offer to swap our Prime Minister for the Canadian counterpart was greeted with glee by the audience, as was his observation that it always looks like George W has soiled himself when we see him on his public appearances.
But it was not all comedy even if the gig coincided with the Melbourne Comedy Festival. The Flying Squirrels provided another dimension to the artist who we had previously only heard performed in songwriter/troubadour mode. The rhythm section of chick drummer/merchandiser Sarah Marlin and bassist Luke Stackhouse drove the truck, while guitarists Dan Walsh and Roger Marlin Jr provided the flourishes with a style of country rock reminiscent of Crazy Horse, a band led by another Canadian.
Eaglesmith, while retaining his own unique style, invites comparisons and reminds listeners of other vital artists, such as a younger Tom Waits; artists who are able paint the pictures with imagery and feeling that will make the hairs on your neck stand up. Songs such as White Rose, Ship and 80 Acres and a Farm nailed the audience with the message while the band moved them with the groove.
It was a triumphant return to Melbourne by Fred Eaglesmith, a smart move by those punters who went along on the night and hopefully enough of a financial pleasure by the promoter for a return tour in the future.
Review by Peter O'Keefe